Saturday, April 08, 2006

Welcome to the Orchard Keeper blog, the blog for those who manage or work in an orchard or agritourism farm. It's not easy being an orchard keeper, but you are not alone. As an orchard keeper we do some or all of the following:

decide which crops will be grown
hire and train workers
prepare soil for planting
plant, prune and weed the orchard
spray, dust and water crops
pick, grade and pack the produce in cases, cartons or bags
transport and market the produce
sell the produce to retailers or independently
maintain and repair machinery, fences and irrigation systems

In other words, we have to be a jack of all trades. Not an easy task. We have to be be patient, practical and self-motivated. We also Have to be well-organized and able to motivate other people. But who motivates us?

Well, let me say right up front that our motivation comes from the Lord and our family. I do it for Him and them. Here at Royal Oak Farm Orchard, every family member has dedicated their life to Jesus and He is our foundation from which we build everything. Jesus said:

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me." NAS John 15:1-4

Jesus makes many statements about being an Orchard Keeper and whether we realize it or not, we follow many of the practices in our orchard that He follows with us. When we have diseased branches in trees we prune them out of the tree so they won't infect the remainder of the tree and then we burn them so the disease will not spread to other trees in the orchard. Jesus said:

"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. NAS John 15:5-8

No, this is not a sermon, but a brief exposition on how we look at being orchard keepers here at Royal Oak Farm Orchard and lays the foundation for what we do here and why we do it.

Now with that said, let me tell you a bit about our family. There are 4 generations in our family living right here on the orchard property and we are very family oriented. It is our mission at Royal Oak Farm Orchard to spread the Gospel Of Jesus while at the same time providing a place where families can go for good, wholesome family entertainment. Visit our web site at
http://www.royaloakfarmorchard.com and you will see what I mean.

Here at Royal Oak Farm Orchard, we grow apples, peaches, apricots, plums, pears, raspberries, pumpkins and gourds among a few other crops. Our specialties are apples, peaches and raspberries. We have over 11,000 apples trees, 1,000 peach trees and 5,000 raspberry bushes. There are 3 orchard keepers here, my father-in-law, my son and myself, each specializing in a specific crop while assisitng the others with their crops. My responsibilites are peaches, apples are my father-in-laws and raspberries are my son's.
At Royal Oak Farm Orchard we use an approach called Integrated Pest management (IPM) to minimize the insect and disease damage to our fruit. IPM utilizes a combination of biological, natural, and cultural controls to keep applications of chemical controls to a minimum. We employ a professional entomologist to monitor a number of species of insects and mites in our orchard, including beneficial species (predators and parasites of pest species). Often there are enough beneficials to control the pest(s) without spraying. On other occasions we can use traps to catch pest species as they enter the orchard, or determine from the traps that there are too few of the pest to cause serious damage to the trees or fruit.

A weather station in the orchard tracks temperature, rainfall, and humidity from March through September, and we use this information to monitor the progress and severity of various diseases that can attack our fruit.

All these efforts make it possible to apply chemical controls only a few times each season when they are truly required, and we have made it a policy to always use the most environmentally friendly materials available. The good health of our bees located all around the orchard is a testament to our insect and disease management strategy.

At Royal Oak Farm we are proud of the quality of the fruit we grow, and equally proud that through our monitoring efforts and the use of Integrated Pest Management procedures we need apply so few sprays to grow excellent products.

All future posts will reflect our use of IPM and the next post will cover our IPM Spray Program for 2006.